The Essence of Place – Exploring King’s Canyon in Saguaro National Park

Three Cacti

Three Saguaro © 2014 Bo Mackison

Saguaro National Park is all about saguaros!

There are deep canyons, endless desert, blue forever sky, the play of light and shadow, but the biggest draw are the iconic cacti of the Sonoran Desert, the giant saguaros.

Saguaro Cactus - A View from Above

Saguaro Cactus – A View from Above © 2014 Bo Mackison

It is not often the tip of a cactus arm is easily captured, but on the Kings Canyon hike in Saguaro National Park, the mountain path rises above a stand of mature saguaros.

King Canyon, Saguaro National Park

Kings Canyon © 2014 Bo Mackison

Kings Canyon is dry on this sunny February day.

But after a heavy rain, raging flood waters can fill this canyon and overflow to the surrounding desert. A rock dam blocks this part of the canyon.

King Canyon, Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park © 2014 Bo Mackison

A stand of 50 to 75-year-old cacti, none yet sprouting arms. Typically a cactus will develop arms between 70 and 100 years, and can live 150 to 200 years.

Petroglyph Canyon Wall

Petroglyph Canyon Wall © 2014 Bo Mackison

Deep in the canyon, the desert varnish is marked with ancient petroglyphs. Snakes, spirals, human and animal figures are just a few of the many symbols.

Yipes Stripes, Saguaro National Park Visitor Center

Stripes, Saguaro National Park Visitor Center © 2013 Bo Mackison

Light and shadow is a large part of the desert experience, and even the buildings offer a light/shadow experience. The Visitor Center at the Tucson Unit of Saguaro National Park has a large outdoor ramada.

Stripes and saguaros!

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. King’s Canyon looks pretty spectacular. I’d love to see it.

  2. Looks like my kinda place!

  3. Incredible, Bo. Saguaro National Park is one of my favorite places on earth and you have captured it beautifully. And you are so right! Capturing the tip of a saguaro is rare – good job! Will you be there in May to see them bloom? Great post!!! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Bo Mackison says:

    Thanks, Debi. If they bloom in early May, I should see quite a few in bloom. The desert is so lovely when it dotted with dinner plate sized white flowers at the tips of saguaros.

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